Colin Turkington's on verge of British Touring Car title despite Silverstone scare
Bloody but unbowed, Colin Turkington emerged from a trio of body-bending races at Silverstone to stand on the brink of becoming British Touring Car champion for a second time.
He didn't win any of the three rounds at the home of the British Grand Prix but three podium finishes limited the damage his closest challenger, Jason Plato, could inflict on him and Turkington will go to the season finale at Brands Hatch with an almost unassailable 50 point advantage.
Plato, the most successful BTCC driver of all time, won the first two races yesterday in his MG but Turkington's eBay Motors BMW shadowed him all the way to the chequered flag each time to ensure the championship gap closed only marginally.
But it was in race three, with the front rows of the grid reversed, that it all kicked off and could have proved disastrous for the 2009 champion from Portadown. He started sixth with Plato eighth and both of them moved up a couple of places as the race developed.
But then Turkington found himself stuck behind the Ford of fourth placed former European champion Fabrizio Giovanardi and under pressure from Alain Menu's VW and Plato.
The Italian is notoriously difficult to pass and Turkington was reluctant to take a risk which had the potential to wreck his championship lead.
But his hand was forced and when the trio found themselves three abreast and his BMW was shunted from behind, sending it into Giovanardi's Focus, it could have all ended in tears.
Somehow Turkington emerged unscathed and astonishingly up to third place, a position he held to the finish as Mat Jackson won for Ford ahead of the VW of Dublin's Aron Smith. Plato was fourth.
A relieved and elated Turkington climbed out of his BMW with blood dripping from his nose, the result of the shunt up the back from Plato's MG or some other reason he couldn't say.
"That was tough and it could so easily have all gone wrong," he acknowledged. "Three abreast into Becketts [corner] is usually a recipe for disaster and when I was shunted into Fabrizio I thought it was all over. But somehow it worked out for me and the only damage was a bloody nose!"
Plato still has a mathematical chance of overhauling Turkington at Brands Hatch in two weeks' time but the Ulsterman has one hand on the title already.
Turkington's team-mate Rob Collard was airlifted to hospital after a huge accident in race two but is said to be "fine".
Andrew Watson was another Ulster driver on the podium at Silverstone, the young Donaghmore driver taking two second places in the Ginetta Super Cup championship. He is in fourth place in the series going into the final races at Brands Hatch.
Meanwhile, Martin Cairns won the Bushwhacker Rally for a second time on Saturday.
The Strabane driver steered his Subaru to a 17-second win over Josh Moffett with Desi Henry third, both in Mitsubishis, in the penultimate round of the Northern Ireland championship.
Cairns led for the first two stages before Moffett edged in from through stages three and four but then Cairns gained the upperhand again and pulled clear to repeat his 2010 victory.
Kenny McKinstry, a late addition to the entry list, was fourth in his Subaru.